Thursday, November 14, 2013

Algunos recuerdos de Ángela Deago Rodríguez



Entre las personas memorables que he conocido, mi suegra, Ángela Deago Rodríguez, figura como una de las primeras.  Nacida en una familia de ocho hijos en Panamá rural en la década de los años 1920, ella tuvo que empezar a trabajar a temprana edad.  Desde los nueve años cabalgaba sola a los pueblos cercanos, cruzando campo y río para vender los productos de la finca.
Nunca se casó pero siempre encontró la manera de mantenerse a sí misma y a sus tres hijos. Lita siempre sabía superarse con lo que tenía. Al principio, recogía, cortaba y vendía leña.  Como me dijo, una vez vendió suficiente leña para comprar tantos cocos como  para llenar un cuarto.  Entonces, hizo y vendió tanta cocada que pudo comprar materiales para construir su primera casa. Más tarde, compraba carne o puerco para cortar y vender.  Utensilios necesarios en la casa de Ángela eran dos ollas enormes – una de cobre para hacer cocada y cabanga, y otra de hierro para freír chicharrón.  Y todo se hacía en el jardín sobre una fogata.  También necesarios eran dos baldes inmensos – uno para guardar la melaza para hacer cocada y el otro para manteca.
Su producto principal fueron los chorizos que le hicieron famosa.  Nunca olvidaré las tripas que colgaban como cortinas del techo bajo detrás de su casa, ni el olor de la grasa.  Una vez picado, condimentado y rellenado, Ángela llevaba los chorizos para vender en el pueblo, y sobre todo, en las oficinas del gobierno. Muchas veces viajaba en chiva para vender los chorizos en la capital.  Me decía que nunca había suficiente para la demanda y que los oficiales hacían fila para el privilegio de comprar los chorizos de Lita porque siempre eran de la mejor calidad.
Esta industria una vez la llevó a conocer al General Torrijos.  Como me lo contó ella misma, Ángela estaba en Chitré, en la calle, vendiendo puerco.  En esta ocasión, el inspector de carne la vio y le dijo que no podía vender puerco ahí y no sin un permiso oficial.  Ángela, que no quería dejar su negocio, le dijo al inspector (con un lenguaje muy específico, bien condimentado con algunas palabrotas) precisamente lo que ella pensaba de él, y siguió vendiendo puerco.
Unos días después cuando estaba picando puerco para chorizo, Ángela oyó que alguien tocaba la puerta.  Algunos guardias entraron su casa, con sus carabinas, y le dijeron que tenía que acompañarlos porque el General, entonces en un campamento en la playa de Parita, quería verla.  Ángela, sin miedo alguno, replicó que no podía porque el puerco pudría.  Al fin y al cabo, ya que los soldados no podían convencerla, resultaron pagándole $200.00 por el puerco y la llevaron al General.  Sucede que lo que quería el General fue que Ángela le contara, palabra por palabra, las palabrotas que  le había dicho al inspector de carne, porque según él, era tiempo para un buen chiste.
Su negocio de chorizo le llevó a otro negocio que empezó años después.  En los años 1970, la Agencia para el Desarrollo Internacional (AID) ofrecía préstamos en Panamá.  Alguien sugirió que su negocio de chorizo sería una buena inversión.  La trataron de convencer, pero al principio, Ángela resistía.  “Ud. Podría construir una gran cocina, sanitaria y profesional”, le dijeron, pero Ángela sabía que el mejor lugar para hacer chorizos era y siempre sería su jardín.  “Ud. podría emplear trabajadores que harían el trabajo”, decían.  Pero Ángela sabía si ella quería que algo se hiciera, siempre era mejor hacerlo ella misma.  Pero al final, decidió aceptar el préstamo de $10,000.00, puso el dinero en el banco, y emprendió otro negocio, el de dar préstamos.  Con el dinero que ganó del nuevo negocio más tarde pudo cancelar el préstamo de AID y pudo seguir haciendo préstamos que, con los intereses, le darían suficiente para mantenerla en su vejez.  Luego, durante el embargo de los EE.UU y la invasión de 1989-90, encontró otro negocio.  En aquel entonces, dinero en efectivo no siempre se podía conseguir y los que recibían su sueldo en cheques no podían convertirlos a dólares.  Así que Ángela compraba cheques con dólares, guardando una cantidad por su servicio.  Más tarde, cuando el dinero se soltó nuevamente en el país, ella depositó los cheques, haciendo una buena ganancia.  Mientras tanto, los trabajadores que le vendieron sus cheques también beneficiaron porque tenían con que comprar comida y otras necesidades.
Además de su talento para el negocio, Ángela es conocida como poeta.  Como los antiguos juglares españoles y los más contemporáneos creadores de corridos y décimas, la poesía de Ángela es un arte oral.  Ella tenía una mente fenomenal para la rima, la métrica, la metáfora, y una memoria infalible. La gente solía venir a su casa para pedirle que compusiera un poema para honrar este u otro evento, o para la reina de este u otro festival, y Ángela, picando puerco o haciendo cocada, componía el poema.  Una vez, cuando estaba vendiendo algo en el pueblo, le pidieron venir de una vez a la plaza para recitar uno de sus poemas.  Aquella vez, dijo que no, porque no se había peinado y no llevaba zapatos.  Alguien le dio un peine y otra persona zapatos, ella se arregló ahí mismo y fue a la plaza para declamar su poesía.
Ángela siempre ha tenido una mente independiente, algo que a veces le alejaba de su familia.  Sin embargo, este espíritu independiente causó que ella buscara o creara oportunidades no siempre vistas por almas más tímidas.  Católica por nacimiento, siempre le interesaba saber cómo pensaba y cómo creía otra gente.  La foto con ella y el general en El Congreso Nacional de la Mujer es otro ejemplo de su sed para experiencias y conocimiento.  Cuando quería viajar, promovió excursiones y vendió suficientes boletos para ganar su propio pasaje.  Así hizo varias giras por América Central y hasta a Europa.
Ángela también ha sido una persona generosa.  Su familia sabía que en momentos de necesidad, ella los ayudaría.  Era generosa con otros también.  Una vez, llegó una mujer desconocida en Monagrillo, buscando  atención médica para su hijo enfermo.  Desafortunadamente, su hijo murió y el sacerdote rehusó decir misa porque a la madre, no le quedó dinero para pagarle.  En un pueblo de mucha gente más rica, fue Ángela, la pobre madre soltera que le dio a aquella señora desconocida el dinero que necesitaba para enterrar a su hijo.
Si hubiera vivido en otra época y otro lugar, con su talento, inteligencia, industria y valentía habría tenido una carrera exitosa en negocios o habría sido poeta de renombre, o quizás se hubiera entrado en la política. Sin embargo, en su entorno es reconocida como una mujer emprendedora, inteligente, creativa y generosa, recordado por muchos, especialmente por sus hijos, nietos, bisnietos y tataranietos.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Democracy, the Verb

"Democracy is always a movement of an energized public to make elites responsible - it is at its core and most basic foundation the taking back of one's powers in the face of the misuse of elite power. In this sense, democracy is more a verb than a noun - it is more a dynamic striving and collective movement than a static order or stationary status quo." --Cornel West, Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism, Penguin Books, 2005, p. 68



I have always been struck by the oxymoronic quality to Mexico's powerful PRI party - Partido Revolucionario Institucional. How can a party, cause, or movement be at the same time revolutionary and institutional - dynamic and stagnant? However, pondering West's word, could the same not be said about American democracy, and, for that matter, the Democratic party? The status quo is so often defended in this country by claims that we are "preserving our democracy". In a particularly circular argument, criticism of the administration or the war in Iraq is stifled because it does not properly respect the soldiers who "are defending our democratic institutions". Perhaps the real oxymoron is institutional democracy. Granted, an institutional process is necessary; there is no need to keep re-inventing the wheel. However, the institution should never become more important than the process. The preservation of the government should never be more important than the constitutional safeguards. Questioning, criticsim and dissent should not be considered unpatriotic and the fourth estate should be responsible, informed, widely published and independent both from governmental and market influence.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Que en paz descansen

How ironic that Jerry Falwall and and Yolanda King should die at the same time. A preacher and the daughter of The Preacher, the Reverend Dr. King. When Reverend King was preaching the message of justice, equality and peace, Reverend Falwell argued that the church should stay out of the civil rights movement; that religion and politics don't mix. Reverend Falwell did enter the political scene, but not with a message of justice and peace, but rather, a message of discord and hate. Yolanda King, actress and motivational speaker, carried forth her father's message of peace and justice.

In the final analysis, the damage Falwell and others have caused can, G-d willing, eventually undone. May he rest in peace. Yolanda King, on the other hand, will be remembered as one who made the world better, who followed the guidance in Micah 6:8: "... to act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your G-d. ..." Rest in peace Yolanda, and know that others will carry on your work.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

La imparcialidad ideológica del Estado liberal y su tolerancia de todas las religiones y opiniones tiene su contrapartida en su actitud frente a los particularismos... Al transformarse en la ideología del mundo moderno, el racionalismo burgués no se convirtió en una religión ni en una pseudorreligión como el marxismo en el siglo XX. Aunque enemigo de las antiguas tradiciones y particularismos culturales, por sí solo habría sido impotente para destruirlos, como lo fue antes el racionalismo grecorromano. Sin embargo, ha contado con un aliado que no tuvo aquél: la técnica ha sido agente de destrucción de lo que llamamos el alma o el genio de los pueblos, es decir, de sus maneras de vivir y sus maneras de morir, de su cocina y de su visión del transmundo. Los antiguos conquistadores edificaban una mezquita o una catedral sobre las ruinas de los templos de los vencidos; los imperialismos modernos construyen factorías y centros de comunicación. Edificios desalmados.

The ideological impartiality of the Liberal State and its tolerance of all religions and opinions has its counterweight in its attitude toward individual difference... In becoming the ideology of the modern world, middle-class rationalism did not become a religion or pseudo-religion, as did Marxism in the 20th century. Although enemy to the ancient traditions and cultural pecularities, alone, it would have been powerless to destroy them, as was the case with the earlier Greco-Roman rationalism. However, it had an ally the earlier (rationalism) lacked: technology has been the destruction of what we call the soul or spirit of cultures, that is, their ways of living and dying, their cuisine, their vision of the world beyond. The ancient conquerors built mosques or cathedrals on the ruins of the temples of the vanquished; modern imperialists erect factories and communication centers. Soulless edifices.

---Octavio Paz, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Trampas de la fe, pp. 50-51

Sor Juana on Life and Death



A random thought: I just stumbled on a quote from Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, 17th century
Mexican poet and nun, directed to the Viceroy, arguing for the life of a condemned man:
Muerte puede dar cualquiera
vida, sólo puede hacerlo
Dios: luego solo con darla
podéis a Dios pareceros.

Death can be granted by anyone
Life can only be created by God:
Therefore only in granting life
Do you resemble the deity.

That, coupled with "Behold, I set before you life and death, therefore choose life" speaks to me as the "Spiritual" in progressivism - working for the life giving force, whether that be working for an end to war, an equitable economy, or a second chance for our planet.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Herr Gouverneur ist ein Esel

With apologies for the disrespectful and undoubtedly incorrect German in the title, Governor Schwarzenegger, get your head out of the sand. Thank you Cindylou for alerting us to the Governor's recent remarks:

"They try to stay Mexican but try to be in America, so there's this back and forth,'' Schwarzenegger said, surrounded by Asian-Americans at a Moon Festival celebration in Los Angeles. ``What I say to Mexicans is you have got to go immerse yourself and assimilate into American culture and become part of the American fabric. That's how America will embrace you."

To begin with, the governor needs to check out a map. The United States is not the only American nation. More importantly, what does the Governor have to teach a culture that has been part of the fabric of the Southwest before the United States even ruled the area? Mexicans have been assimilating into the culture of the United States ever since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and new immigrants continue to do so. Assimilation, at its best, is not cultural suicide. Successful immigrants learn the cultural, economic and legal byways in order to work and live fully in the new culture while at the same time preserving and passing on the best of their home cultural traditions and values. In my experience, children of immigrants are best served when their parents not only give them tools to succeed in their adopted country but also pass on the linguistic richness and moral fiber of their homeland.

Immigrants contribute to our country not only by working, paying taxes, and raising good citizens. They also enrich us by sharing their cultural heritage. Here in central California, the cultural calendar includes Cinco de Mayo and 16 de Septiembre parades and festivals, Portuguese festas, Scandifest, Diwalli Festival, the Greek Food Festival, Café Shalom, the Assyrian Festival, the Japanese rice pressing festival to name only a few. Ours is not the only country that borrows from others linguistically and culturally. The fundraising kermesses in Mexico and other Latin American countries and the European polka influence in norteño music come to mind.

Countries that share common borders also tend to share language and culture. That is why we are much more likely to ask for carne asada or chile verde than weinerschnitzel. Governor Schwarzenegger, you´ve lived in California for a while now, you work in Sacramento, in the San Joaquin Valley. When you leave your mansion, you step into a California cultural heritage richly steeped in Spanish language and hispanic culture. Wake up and smell the café con leche.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Lethe and Other Summer Memories

This summer has taken me to Panama, described in MsABCmom’s blog and flickr pictures as well as an excursion to Monterey with Sabina, who learned that trips with Bubbe always including walking longer than she would like.

Yesterday was a different kind of memorable day, a day spent in San Francisco with my mother. She is one of the few people I know who get caught up in the journey as much in the destination. So while we enjoyed the new De Young Museum, the walk in Golden Gate Park was perhaps even more spectacular. It was one of those rare San Francisco summer days; the weather a warm 65 degrees, the sky a brilliant blue, enough breeze to carry the scent of flowers and herbs, and the sun creating a paint box of color on leaves, bushes, trees and flowers.

Our real purpose for the trip, however, was to see the Cornerstone Theater production of Lethe. I had discovered this theater company a year ago with the production of “Boda de Luna Nueva” (New Moon Wedding), a contemporary adaptation of García Lorca’s “Blood Wedding”.

"Cornerstone Theater Company is a multi-ethnic, ensemble-based theater company. We commission and produce new plays, both original works and contemporary adaptations of classics, which combine the artistry of professional and community collaborators. By making theater with and for people of many ages, cultures and levels of theatrical experience, Cornerstone builds bridges between and within diverse communities in our home city of Los Angeles and nationwide." http://www.cornerstonetheater.org/who_mainpage.html

And so they do. For “Boda de Luna Nueva”, the company selected the tiny, farm town of Grayson in west Stanislaus County. They brought in a company of professional actors and students in their summer residency program and then recruited locals of all ages from Grayson and the surrounding communities to develop and act in the play. In adapting the play to time and place, they first researched the community. So, for example, instead of the wheat harvest in “Bodas de Sangre”, “Boda de Luna Nueva” showcased the tomato and apricot harvest. “Death” was played by a woman pushing a “paletera” cart and selling drugs instead of ice cream and popsicles. The Greek chorus of “Woodcutters” was replaced by a chorus of “Tomato Pickers” and Leonardo escaped with the bride not on horseback but in his pick-up. The play was performed at the edge of an open field and the audience sat in bleachers. Beyond the stage setting one could see the field, the highway and orchards beyond, and as the play progressed, the sun setting beyond the western hills. “La luna” (The Moon) appeared not on stage, but from the distant field beyond, back lit so she was initially just a white sphere moving ever toward us. The play was amazing; a magical moment in time.

There are moments and experiences I would like to bottle, in order to capture their essence. “Boda de Luna Nueva" was one of those. “Lethe” was another.

Lethe, taken from the Greek myths, is one of the rivers in Hades. New souls arriving in Hades drink from this River of Oblivion in order to forget their earthly existence, in preparation for their new home.

The play, “Lethe”, written by Octavio Solís, takes place at a Senior Home, modeled after the On Lok Institute on Aging. The actors include some professionals (including one 95 year old), students in the summer residency program, as well as first-time actors who in their other lives work or volunteer with the elderly. One story line focuses on a resident whose husband died a year ago, her son, who has not been able to deal with his father´s death, and the developing romance between the mother and another resident. Another story line highlights a filipina woman with Alzheimers (in her words, the Aswang or vampires, are stealing her memories while she sleeps) and her relationship with a young professional filipina volunteer. Both the son and the young woman are carrying around the ghosts of their parents, for whom they were caregivers. The ghosts will not leave them until the living are able to deal with
unresolved issues with their parents. Framing all this are three choruses: the Onstage Senior Chorus, the Caregiver Chorus and the Lethe Gesture chorus.

As in any good play, the acting and music were outstanding and there
were many moments to laugh and cry. What is memorable (!) about Lethe, however, was its truth. The setting really was a Senior Center and the people really were health care professionals, volunteers and residents. My mother recognized the truth in these actors and she knows; she is a volunteer in such a setting. The son accurately represented the dilemma of caregivers caught between the selfless task set upon them and their own lives. The resolution for the filipina Alzheimer patient and the young volunteer required the older woman to deal with her loss of memory but also for the younger woman to reclaim cultural and family memories she never had.

The playwright, accurately sums up Cornestone’s magic:
"Over the rehearsal period, there have been many times that our efforts
in rehearsal have been trumped by the sudden insertion of Real Life into the process. Someone will stop and abruptly tell a deeply moving personal account or explain something about hospice work relevant to our scene or simply misspeak a line of text in a way that reveals an utter fact of life previously ignored. While in other instances with other theatres, this might be scorned as frustrating interruption into the
artistic process, at Cornerstone, Real Life is the process... Our community
participants are not just the resource, they are the authority. Our elders carry the history of our culture inside them, ways of life that come and go like tides, momentous days and days of no consequence laced together by memory, fragile and
ephemeral. And our caregivers carry inside them the hours of constant selflessness,
weighing against their own personal wants the need to help others through the straits of illness and age. And through it all is love. If I discovered anything about these communities it is that they are built entirely on love."
--Octavio Solís

Will the Real W. Please Stand Up








http://www.danfingerman.com/bush.html

The United States Constitution: "...just a goddamned piece of paper". --George Bush

from: Doug Thompson, "Bush on the Constitution: It's Just a Goddamned Piece of Paper," Capital Hill Blue, December 9, 2005

Monday, June 19, 2006

Who Will You be When You Grow Up?

Having worked my way through two careers and now on my third, having raised a family, I still sometimes ask myself that question. Not what you will be when you grow up, but who. The follow up question is what do you stand for and how do you follow up on that? Ava Lowery is a fifteen-year old who has figured out what she stands for and has taken action. If you haven't seen her on the news or caught one of her Peace Takes Courage videos, check out her blog at http://www.peacetakescourage.com/page-home.htm